The Dark Knight Returns The Golden Child marks another return from Frank Miller to the world he created 33 years ago. There’s been some hits and misses since the excellent original entry, but where does The Golden Child fall? This story breaks the mold of the previous stories and seems to want to focus on Superman’s second child, Johnathan. He’s just a boy in the issue, and Superman’s still around, but there seems to be something different about him.
Although the story has Johnathan in it a lot, it doesn’t exactly tell us much about him or show us the character. He certainly seems to be more even-minded then his older sister Lara, but that’s all we know for sure. Mixed in with the snapshots of Johnathan are scenes with Carrie Kelly now as a full-on Batwoman, Darkseid, and an imposter Joker. Bruce Wayne does seem to be alive, but we only get to see Carrie texting him updates. None of the characters grow within the story, but rather act out as part of a broader dialogue.
The story takes place around a sham election that has Donald Trump’s likeness all over it. The election seems to have people divided and hating one another, but we don’t know why. The election and fighting represent the building tension within the city, but it’s hard to grasp exactly what else Miller is trying to say. There’s also some unexplained awkwardness with Darkseid. It seems very out of character for Darkseid to be hanging around on Earth and working with a random Joker imposter. It made me question the character, his motivation, and the writing of the story. Why would someone as powerful and knowing as Darkseid need Joker’s help? Unfortunately, we never get to find out as it’s somewhat skipped over within the story.
Rafael Grampa takes care of all the art in this issue. It’s the first time that Miller’s fully let go of that responsibility in the DKR series. Although I missed the consistency and Miller’s unique style, Grampa fills the role well. His style is edgy and not far off from some of Miller’s DKR work. The characters’ faces are what differ the most, but since the characters in this issue are somewhat new to the universe, it is not as noticeable. I imagine that I’d be okay with Grampa providing art going forward, but even a few splash pages from Miller would make the book feel more authentic.
Although it’s interesting to see some new characters in the DKR universe, this issue doesn’t give any one of them much respect. It seems like Miller wanted to tell us about Superman’s unique and powerful son. It also seems like he wanted to weigh in the chaotic political climate. You could even surmise that maybe he wanted to say that we need a different type of hero for these different and challenging times. Unfortunately, the comic doesn’t say or really show us any of these things. It seems like Miller’s, and Bruce’s voices are the same, and without one another in the DKR universe, they are lost. While we wait for him the entire issue, Bruce is nowhere to be found, and Miller’s edginess and style seem to be missing along with him.